Service Tops…Myth or Reality?

leather glove

I’m a bottom who frequently jokes around that I’m looking for a service top. I‘m not proficient with American colloquialisms, have a tendency towards word invention, and have never been heavily involved with the leather community. This means when I blithely throw around terms like “service top”, I’m usually in my own private Idaho. I’ve come across a slang term and personalized it to suit my purposes. What is a service top anyway?

When I start whining that I want a service top, usually I’m tired and lonely. I want a kind-hearted, proficient, and energetic top to mysteriously appear in my apartment, beat me senseless, and then fist me until we both collapse in a sticky puddle of come and sweat. I want a top who gets off doing this, who needs to control the scene and beat me, as much as I need to be submissive and beaten. I want a physical and emotional connection between us, albeit for just a few hours. I don’t want to plan it, don’t want safe words, don’t want to be in control, and don’t want to be passive. There is an enormous difference between submissive and passive, however that’s entirely another blog post.

The term top is slightly different when referring to a sexual top, than when referring to a BDSM top. I’m interested in the BDSM definitions here. According to Kinkly, a service top is a derogatory term that implies that the top isn’t really topping, but letting the bottom dictate the scene, ‘and/or that the top is a professional paid dominant. Kinkopedia weighs in with, “Service topping often gets sneered at and what they offer can be devalued.” BDSM Wiki defines a service top as, “A service top might be a d-type, m-type, or s-type that performs topping skills on a willing bottom primarily for the benefit of the bottom (as a service to them). A professional service top is generally referred to as a pro dom.“

I asked my friends for their thoughts on service tops, and it turned out that they had many opinions. Thank goodness for naughty, contemplative friends who’re willing to share!

Louis, an older gay experienced leatherman and top said, “A service top’s pleasure comes vicariously through the bottom’s. Non-service tops seek their own pleasure, physical and emotional (and, I would add, in the confidence that being used that way is what gives the bottom pleasure).”

Trixie, a dyke top agreed with Louis, “I’m with Louis on this one. I see the definition depends highly on to whom you are speaking! But I do think that in mutually agreed upon BDSM activities, all involved are “servicing” in some way.”

John combined everything, “A service top may take on many forms. In some dynamics, it might be that the service top is ‘stone’ sexually and deeply enjoys sexually pleasuring their bottom. That same service top may also find pleasure in dressing their bottom, polishing their boots, or cooking for them or feeding them. Some service tops find pleasure e.g. in spanking their bottom — and the focus is solely on their bottom’s pleasure, which they take pleasure in (vs. playing in ways where the bottom’s pleasure may be secondary to the Top’s). As someone else mentioned, I often think of a service top as being a professional for hire. Their sole job is to give their paying (bottom) client exactly what they want.”

My top pal Justin said, “I’m often a service top. For me it’s about providing a good experience for the bottom that doesn’t require them to be pushed in a lot of directions they don’t want, or having lots of attention be on me and what I want. I do it a lot with pick up play with newbies. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun. It just means I’m not demanding that I’m daddy or that we do canes.”

Diane, who’s a bottom, said, “In my experience, service tops polish your toenails and give you long lingering bubble baths and then allow you the honor of expressing your gratitude in whatever way they prefer. Sigh.”

Marta, a butch switch, said, “My butch’s previous partner was a high femme power bottom, and my butch did everything by the femme’s explicit direction. My butch considers themself a top with a capital T (but switches with me), and while what you are describing sounds just like the arrangement they had with the femme.” Marta’s partner chimed in with, “A service top is in service to the pleasure of the bottom. It changes the dynamic, creating an energy/pleasure connection without dominating.”

Justin delineates between two topping styles, and gets different needs fulfilled when he is topping for a newbie, then when he’s topping an experienced bottom; with the newbie he’s the firm, yet gentle educator, and when he is topping a more experienced bottom, he’s the sadist. The commonality is that he is the dominant each time. Diane makes it clear that in the end, the top gets whatever they want from her, and that she’s gloriously grateful for whatever the top needs and dishes out. Marta’s partner is clear that there is no domination when she is service topping. I have more commonality with Louis and Trixie’s definitions; they both see service as being innately part of the non-service top activities.

My friends described two service top definitions that I found less compelling, therefore neglected to include in my idiocentric definition of a service top. One was the educational top and the other was the paid top. What do these tops get from the scene? Even if the bottom is not perceived as overtly submissive, the educational top is still being dominant in their role as teacher; they have special BDSM knowledge and control how this knowledge is doled out. They may not get their sadistic side fed, however they clearly get their dominant side fed.

The professional top is the other one. They get money for their services. Is the professional top at heart a top or a sadist, is this just a job, and is this question even relevant? Whether the professional top is personally a top or sadist or not, then I would argue that the bottom/masochist is the dominant person in this exchange since they tell the professional top their desires, then give them money in order to have these desires met. I’m not a professional top or professional bottom, nor have I ever hired one to provide services to myself, so being inexperienced, maybe I’m incorrect. Hiring a professional top sounds enticing though; my dreams of beating, fisting, and cake in bed could be met!

My smarty pants definition of a service top is that they bake a cake, fill your sexual and masochistic desires, then feed you that yummy cake. In bed. Buttery pound cake works for me. My thoughtful answer is that ideally the top and bottom are in service to one another. The word “service” is redundant and implied within the context of top and bottom.

The sadistic top wants to give pain and to be in charge, while the masochistic bottom wants to give it up and act as a container for the top’s expression of their needs. The bottom services the top with their trust, submission, and reactions, while the top services the bottom with their trust, dominance, and manipulations. As they react with one another, the top and bottom form a spiral of energy that increases as their energies merge, and as they compel one another higher levels of expression. Succinctly, the more that I cry and come, the more the top growls and hurts me. If everyone is getting what they want through what they give and take, isn’t it all service anyway?

About Avery Cassell

Avery Cassell is a queer butch San Francisco writer, poet, cartoonist, and artist who grew up in Iran.
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